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  • Khushboo Pareek

America's Odysseus becomes first commercial spacecraft to land on Moon


Odysseus passes over the near side of the Moon following lunar orbit insertion on. Image Source: Intuitive Machines


The Odysseus spacecraft has landed on the moon heralding a new era for private space ventures in the space exploration segment.


With this feat, Intuitive Machines (IM), the commercial venture behind the Nova-C lander, now holds the distinction of being the first private entity to carry out a successful landing on the lunar surface.


"Carrying NASA science and technology to the Moon, Intuitive Machines’ uncrewed lunar lander touched down at 5:23 p.m. CST on Thursday. The instruments aboard Odysseus will prepare NASA for future human exploration of the Moon under Artemis," wrote US space agency NASA.


Artemis is a NASA campaign which aims to establish "first long-term presence on the Moon" in collaboration with commercial and international partners.

 

"I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface, and we are transmitting," said Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, on the webcast "Welcome to the moon."


The Odysseus spacecraft became the first American spacecraft to achieve a moon landing in more than five decades. This marks the first soft landing by an American spacecraft on the lunar surface since the conclusion of the Apollo era in 1972.


The landing follows India's Chandrayaan-3 lander, which achieved a soft landing on the lunar South Pole in August 2023. This was the first spacecraft from India to reach the lunar South.


The landing site of Odysseus is near Malapert A, an impact crater near the moon's South Pole.


NASA stated that it selected the landing site for Intuitive Machines' inaugural mission to gain deeper insights into the lunar environment and understand communication dynamics in this area.


NASA's said the location offers optimal conditions for establishing a future astronaut base.


The site is "(A) relatively flat and safe region is within the heavily cratered southern highlands on the side of the Moon visible from Earth," according to NASA.


Before landing, the spacecraft encountered communication issues, surpassing the expected landing time. However, an Intuitive Machines flight controller reassured that the lander is still operational, stating it's "not dead yet," and they have detected a "faint signal" indicating its status.

The US remains the only country to have put humans on the lunar surface, most recently in 1972 with the Apollo 17 mission.


Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission is the company’s first mission through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which aims to gain new insights into the lunar environment and expand the lunar economy to support future crewed missions under NASA’s Artemis campaign.


Intuitive Machines is an American company headquartered in Houston, Texas. It was founded in 2013 by Stephen Altemus, Kam Ghaffarian, and Tim Crain. Intuitive Machines is an end-to-end space exploration company delivering lunar access, lunar data services, extreme lunar mobility.

 

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